Parliamentarians call on Government to end the tobacco epidemic by 2030
The All Parliamentary Party Group on Smoking and Health publishes its ‘Delivering a Smokefree 2030’ report today, commissioned from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), and researched and written with support from SPECTRUM.
09 June 2021
Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health warns the Government that it can only build back better and fairer from the pandemic by making smoking obsolete. Now, say the cross-party group of MPs and peers, is the time for Government to commit to the actions needed to secure its vision of a Smokefree 2030.
They note that, as the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, pointed out recently, this is an industry that kills people for profit, and more people are likely to have died last year and this year from smoking than COVID-19. Smoking not only kills people prematurely, it also drives them into poverty and reduces healthy life expectancy, with smokers needing help with everyday tasks 7 years earlier than those who’ve never smoked. But this burden is not equal. Smoking is concentrated among disadvantaged groups locking in poverty and poor health across the generations.
The All Party Group report, published today, urges the Government to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to step up and take its place on the world stage as a global leader in tobacco control. The report’s recommendations include:
- Funding for tobacco control programmes to be secured through a ‘polluter pays’ amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, forcing manufacturers to pay to deliver the end of smoking.
- Targeted investment to provide additional support to help smokers quit in regions and communities where smoking does most damage. This includes those in routine and manual jobs and the unemployed; living in social housing; with a mental health condition; and pregnant smokers.
- Tougher tobacco regulations to protect children and young people from becoming smokers and help smokers quit, such as putting health warnings on cigarettes and consulting on raising the age of sale to 21.
The report was commissioned from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) who provide the secretariat for the APPG, and was researched and written with support from SPECTRUM.
Our report sets out measures which will put us on track to achieve the Government’s ambition to end smoking by 2030, but they can’t be delivered without funding. Tobacco manufacturers make extreme profits selling highly addictive, lethal products, while government coffers are bare because of COVID-19. The manufacturers have the money, they should be made to pay to end the epidemic.
I’m an MP from the North East, the poorest region in the country where smoking rates have historically been high. That’s why, although we’ve made good progress in recent years, we still suffer disproportionately from disease, disability and death caused by smoking. The APPG report recommendations will sever the ‘iron chain’ linking smoking and disadvantage. They are essential if we are to build back fairer and level up communities like my own.
We all applauded when the Government announced its ambition for a Smokefree 2030. But that was two years ago, the time has now come to deliver. Currently smoking rates are not declining nearly fast enough. If, as called for by the APPG, the recommendations in its report are implemented by 2022 we can get on track to make smoking obsolete by 2030.
The members of our academic consortium, SPECTRUM, are delighted that our research has helped provide the evidence base for the APPG’s recommendations to government for the next Tobacco Control Plan for England. Using research to prevent and address the harm caused by unhealthy commodities like tobacco by identifying and evaluating solutions, is our core mission.
Widespread public support
The report highlights evidence showing widespread public support for government action with low levels of opposition. More than three quarters (76%) of the public support the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition (7% oppose). There is widespread support for specific policy interventions too. 77% support making tobacco manufacturers pay a levy or licence fee to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking (6% oppose), while 63% support increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21 (15% oppose).
These measures are supported by voters for all parties. More than three quarters of those surveyed who voted Conservative (76%), Labour (82%) or Liberal Democrat (87%) in the 2019 election support the idea of a levy on tobacco manufacturers. Strongest support for raising the age to 21 comes from those who voted Conservative in 2019, two thirds (66%) of whom support raising the age of sale to 21 compared with 63% of Labour voters and 64% of Liberal Democrat voters.